Temporary Atheism

This week I read the account in Genesis 20 of Abraham and Sarah’s flight into Gerar, where for the second time they deceived a pagan king with respect to their relationship. Since Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister, it wasn’t a complete lie when he told Abimelech that she was his sister, but he neglected to explain that they were husband and wife. Abraham presumptuously assumed the worst about the people of Gerar (v.11) and devised a wicked and deceitful plan which put Sarah at risk (v.12,13).

Despite Abraham’s self-centered scheme, God intervened miraculously to protect his promise that Sarah and Abraham would have a son within the year (Gen. 17:21). He also prevented Abimelech from touching Sarah (20:6), even going so far as to prevent anyone in the king’s household from conceiving a child as long as Sarah was with him (v.17,18). This was done so that no one could later claim that Isaac was not the true son of Abraham. Clearly, God was able to protect his servant, even though Abraham’s anxious actions reveal his lack of faith at this juncture.

Someone once said that anxiety is temporary atheism, and Abraham’s example seems to demonstrate that this is true. It was anxiety and fear, not faith and courage which led Abraham to deceive Abimelech, and the results would have been disastrous, if not for God’s supernatural intervention. Abraham was acting as if God did not exist or was incapable of keeping his Word. The triumph of this story is that God did intervene, in spite of Abraham’s failure and lack of faith, protecting his servant and proving himself trustworthy once again.

As I think of the uncertainty of the new year, there are plenty of opportunities to be anxious and act as if God does not have a sovereign purpose to work out in my life. I am thankful that God is not limited by my faith, which often falters. He can and will accomplish his work this year, and he will not be hindered by the economy, the political climate, illness, exhaustion, or even a weak-faithed servant.

Be anxious for nothing…” Philippians 4:6

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